Sometime in the month of May, our great American idol Miley Cyrus made headlines. Yes, again. For what exactly? The charity she formed to help homeless LGTBQ youth? For speaking out in favor of Caitlynn Jenner? Nope – for her armpit hair. More specifically, her grown out, bleached, and dyed-pink armpit hair.
It took a little while for it to make the rounds on my feed; however, once it found itself amongst the reposts, it was a controversial topic of conversation for quite a while. Though I had previously seen this post, I found it incredibly interesting how the women on my feed were more horrified than the men about the body hair issue. And as I continued to see these “news posts” gossiping about her armpit hair (or growth thereof) I wondered: Why is it that as a society we find this so horrifying? This sudden shock of body hair we don’t expect to see in the public eye – on a female bodied person?! Oh snap!
Body hair on women is not an entirely unheard of concept – Amanda Palmer and Julia Roberts are some of the more (in)famous examples of ‘pit hair making a debut on a very glamorous lady. And if anyone has spent some time on CNN lately, you’ll know that this is the latest battlefront for Chinese feminists.
In talking about it with my partner, I found that despite my cynicism in the face of the overwhelming response of negativity, I shared similar beliefs. The idea of growing out my body hair honestly gave me the willies. So naturally I began thinking seriously about posing, as a challenge to myself, a no-shave month. And in summer no less, this would actually force me to confront the social norm. Texas in June? No way would I be wearing sleeves every day. And thus my challenge was set: From June 2nd until July 4th, I did not shave my legs or under my arms.
Everyone ready to be shocked? I still haven’t shaved my armpits since.
My partner actually enjoys hair, saying it is the natural state of being – even on someone who was female bodied. And after some initial skepticism, I find that I agree. After all, as a society, American women did not begin shaving until it was no longer scandalous to rock a sleeveless dress, therefore the only fitting conclusion to come to is that we can thank the Roaring 20s for giving us our horrified reactions to body hair.
Speaking of horrified reactions, I found myself going through an odd cycle of grief and acceptance when it came to saying goodbye to my smooth and hairless skin.
At the beginning, I was miserable. I was going through that prickly, itchy phase. I didn’t want anyone touching my legs, and despite the quickly approaching heat, I refused to wear shorts.
Week two was where I found progress, and my skin (beneath the hair, that is) was beginning to look wonderful. I unfortunately find myself to be a female-bodied individual with incredibly sensitive skin. Shaving leaves me red and blotchy more often than not, even with body butter slathered on the minute I’m dry from a shower. I’ve even gone so far as to put Bikini Zone under my arms. It was around this time that I noticed with pleasure that the hairs were finally becoming less projectile, and I found myself thinking for the first time, Hmm. I think I might just like this.
The following week I decided to throw caution to the wind and with my newfound confidence: I wore tank tops and shorts out a few times. I waited for choice moments to flash my growth around various individuals and found a few hilarious reactions. I put my hair up in a ponytail around an older lady at the bus stop and had her literally stop and stare for a second. On accident, I did the same at a party around some younger individuals and managed to distract a young woman in the middle of a story. She recovered well, but her (male) friend did not.
By the last week of my challenge, my leg hair was grown out enough to be soft, and though I did have a random hobo comment when I walked past him in shorts, no one else said a thing. I even found myself rubbing my calves because I liked the texture.
End result? It was the 4th of July so I simply had to shave, for sanity’s sake and for the sake of the shorts I really wanted to wear – though I will most likely revisit this challenge in the near future. I still haven’t shaved under my arms, nor do I intend to. I like the growth, I like not having chafed arm pits, and honestly, I’m curious to see how long it gets – maybe I’ll be the first one among my friends to have purple pits.
I still am unable to understand why women are so horrified by something as simple as hair, not only does my refusing to shave saves my skin but it saves me money on my razors or waxing. Recently I watched a video on an anthropologist of sorts who studies women and how they feel about their pubic hair. The most common reason as to why women groomed themselves to the extreme (i.e. Brazilian) is that to many Americans, hair is seen as unclean on a woman. To that I say, do what you want!
As for me? I freed the bush a long time ago, I haven’t bought a new cartridge of razors since May, and I love my armpit hair. What’s holding you back?
Photo credit courtesy of Miley Cyrus.